Remarks by Mayor Kenneth E. Pringle
Mayor, Borough of Belmar, New Jersey
on the Federal Shore Protection Program
Water Resources Development Act of 1998
June 23, 1998

Good morning, Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee. My name is Ken Pringle, and I have been the Mayor of the Borough of Belmar, New Jersey for 8 years. I am pleased to be here to bring my perspective as a small town mayor to the federal shore protection program.

Belmar is a one-square mile community, with a year round population of 5,700 residents. Despite our small size, Belmar ranks each year as the most popular tourist destination in Monmouth County, and one of the most popular in New Jersey. On an typical Sunday afternoon in the Summer, approximately 20,000 people will crowd onto Belmar's beautiful beaches, which are a little more than a mile long, and about 150 yards wide.

The Borough of Belmar has been an active partner with the State of new Jersey and the Corps of Engineers in the largest shore protection program in the United States. This project includes eleven municipalities and covers 21 miles of New Jersey's shoreline.

I am here today to urge continued support for the federal program and to thank the Committee for recognizing the importance of this investment in our shore communities. I want to note the long-standing contributions of Senator Lautenberg to maintaining this investment. He has been a tireless champion of our coastal areas and to environmental protection.

Belmar was an early convert to the cause of beach nourishment. During the infamous Northeaster of '92, Belmar, like the rest of the Jersey Shore, was battered by a horrific combination of high winds, abnormally high tides, and relentlessly pounding surf. Along the southern half-mile of Belmar's coast, which had eroded away to almost nothing over the prior years, seven blocks of boardwalk and two pavilions were completely destroyed, including three blocks of boardwalk that were "protected" by a stone seawall. Other towns on either side of us, like Spring Lake, Avon and Bradley Beach, were devastated by the same storm, and lost their entire boardwalks and sustained enormous damage to their beachfront pavilions, at a cost of several million dollars in Federal Emergency Management Administration funds.

At Belmar's northern end, however, we sustained very little damage to our boardwalk and beachfront buildings. The reason our northern end fared so much better than our southern end was that our northern beaches were much wider because the Shark River Inlet traps eroding sand carried northward by the littoral drift. It became clear to everyone that the best defense against ocean storms is not seawalls, jetties or other hard structures, but rather wide sloping beaches that easily dissipate the incredible force of a storm's waves.

As a result of what we learned from the Northeaster of '92' residents of Belmar and other towns from Manasquan to Deal hailed the arrival of the Army Corps and two large ocean-going dredges in the summer of 1997. That dredging operation, which proceeded around the clock for several months, pumped tens of millions of cubic yards of sand on our beaches, literally creating beaches before our eyes.

Despite a series of nor'easters on the New Jersey coast this past winter and spring, Belmar's new beaches survived extremely wall, with minimal sand loss. More importantly, as a result of the increased width of our southern beaches, we were able for the first time to leave in place this winter the portable boardwalk sections that we installed after the Nor'easter of '92, **1 which was a boon to the hundreds of runners, walkers and bicyclists who use that boardwalk every winter day. The wider beaches have also significantly expanded Belmar's capacity for beachgoing tourists. In fact, Belmar's new south end beaches were able to be used this past weekend as the site for a large amateur volleyball tournament, a prospect that would have been unthinkable just a year ago.

**1 In the aftermath of the Nor'easter of '92' and with the long-planned Army Corps beach nourishment project still in the unfunded distance, Belmar replaced its destroyed boardwalk area with portable boardwalk sections, which are removed each winter. We also installed restroom facilities that can be disconnected and towed inland after each summer beach season.

As other New Jersey shore communities will attest, the Corps of Engineers' projects have time and again proved their resistance to devastating storms. Based upon our experience in Belmar over the past winter, and what seems to be the increasing frequency of storm activity off our coast, it is clear that the Corps of Engineers' project in Monmouth County will save millions of dollars in damages over the next several years.

The Clinton Administration has proposed a change in the cost-sharing formula for periodic nourishment of sandy beaches. Under this proposal, non-federal project sponsors would pay 65 percent, Instead of the current 35 percent, for periodic nourishment. Because the Borough of Belmar will be due in the next few years for its first periodic renourishment, I am extremely concerned about the additional financial burden this plan will place on us. There is no questions that we are willing to pay our fair share of the cost of financing shore protection projects. However, Mr. Chairman, this local share -- whether for initial construction or periodic renourishment -- should be dependent upon the federal government holding up its part of the bargain. That means that we must be assured of a reliable funding level for these projects. This funding level should be based upon a comprehensive assessment of the projects around the country that are ready for construction, ready for periodic renourishment, and currently in the construction pipeline.

The Borough of Belmar does its part to maintain a stable, reliable source of local funding for the shore protection program. Because we are unable to charge a hotel or local sales tax, my community and most others along the New Jersey coast fund the cost of our beaches by charging an admission fee to residents and non-residents alike. By law, this fee can used solely for the cost of operating and improving our beaches Obviously, we think it is important that these fees remain affordable to families. Belmar's 10% share of the most recent beach nourishment project is $612,899.79. Thanks to great weather over the past two summers, and some forward financial planning, we will be making a cash downpayment of $300,000 toward that bill when it comes due later this summer, but will need to borrow the balance, and pay it off over the next several summers. It is important that the local share of future periodic renourishment projects be reasonable, so as not to cause the price of beach admission to exceed the reach of the tens of thousands of families from New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania who regularly use our beaches.

Mr. Chairman, shore communities around the country believe that beach nourishment projects re in the national interest, not just in the state and local interest. Beaches provide a vital, first ine of defense against storms and flooding. Every dollar of federal investment in shore rotection reduces the cost of emergency assistance that would otherwise be paid through the ederal Emergency Management Administration, and prevents untold losses in private nvestment, much of which is either uninsured or uninsurable. Moreover, the revenues from ourism in New Jersey don't go to local governments, which rely primarily on property taxes for heir revenue. Rather, they go to the state and federal treasuries. The blew Jersey shore is a remendous economic engine. In 1996, travel and tourism in New Jersey's five coastal counties generated over $12 billion and were responsible for 161,000 tourism-related jobs, with a payroll of over $3 billion. Protection of this industry is a worthwhile federal investment.

I want to thank you again for giving me the opportunity to share my views with you today. I would be pleased to try to answer any questions you may have.